The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 4, 2012

Lab offers hands-on approach to science

Kelly Urban

SIDMAN — Fourth-grade pupils at Forest Hills Elementary School were going bananas Thursday, but it was all in the name of science.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s Mobile Ag Education Science Lab has been at the school all week and gives pupils the chance to perform an activity, such as extracting DNA from a banana, that focuses on farming, food and the environment.

Once in the lab, pupils team to solve a problem as they form a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, collect data and draw conclusions.

“This allows students to have a unique hands-on experience with science,” said Principal Jim Lashinsky.

“They go five days to the lab and each day do a different experiment.”

Other experiments include germinating seeds under different conditions, creating crayons from soybeans and testing the water capacity of different soils.

“We want our kids to understand the scientific approach and the steps involved with that and how they come to the conclusion,” Lashinsky said.

Griffin Christ said he liked spending time in the lab doing experiments, especially the taste-testing part.

“We tasted different juices to see which one tastes the best; we were looking at the sugar in the juice,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Taryn Varner also liked the taste- test experiment and realized that although she likes chocolate, she

doesn’t like plain cocoa before the sugar is added.

“I learned that we are attracted to sodium, fats and sugar,” she said.

“We’ve been using the scientific method.”

Dawn McCall, fourth-grade science and math teacher, called the program “excellent” and said it’s aligned with what the pupils are studying in the classroom.

“The kids have a ball and ask when they are going to be able to go to the lab,” she said.

“They get to explore things they didn’t know came from Pennsylvania and what this state has to offer.”

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